2013 saw the launch of two new consoles. Well, three if you want to get technical and count the Ouya, which... Moving on. The new machinery rekindled old rivalries, divided households, and pit brothers against one another in an epic struggle to determine whether Knack is better than Ryse: Son of Rome.
As joyous as the renewal of this bitter feud as been, sometimes it's nice to come together, break some bread, and meet on common ground to discuss multiplatform games. As long as nobody brings up any exclusive DLC or inequalities in resolution or framerate, I think everything will be fine. We can pretty much all agree on two things: The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct was a load of crap and the following list of non-exclusive titles are totally awesome.
Saints Row IV
Saints Row IV is, from start to finish, a pleasure. It's a pure pleasure to play. I was cynical, given my feeling let down by The Third, but Volition has worked hard to address almost everything wrong with its last outing, and provide something that delivers over and above expectations.
What I love most about IV is how it puts the player first -- absolutely every new feature and ability gifted to the player seems designed purely to make the game more convenient to enjoy, and more fun to play.
Blood Dragon is well made, and thoroughly entertaining to lovers of the eighties, but in many ways, it becomes a victim of its own success -- the core ideas are so fun, so lavishly crafted, one aches to see them in a game equal to their quality. Blood Dragon is a good little game, and I highly recommend checking it out, with the caveat that it's one of those games that does a few things well enough to inadvertently highlight its own flaws.
As critical as I may be, however, I'd rather have Blood Dragon exist as it does than not exist at all. A game this delightfully stupid can only make the world a better place, and I sincerely hope this isn't the last we see of Rex Colt.
Metro: Last Light is a disappointment in several respects. That simply has to be said. Its design painstakingly addresses criticisms of Metro 2033 to such an overzealous degree that it actually undoes many of the things 2033 was praised for.
However -- and it's a big however -- Last Light is also a fine game on its own, and if we're to judge it without the shadow of 2033 looming overhead, we can say it's a game packed with structurally sound combat, a rewardingly fluid narrative, and an atmosphere that runs the gamut from intriguing to chilling.
As a default experience, Metro: Last Light is a good game that forgets why Metro 2033 was a great one.
Dragon's Crown is quite literally a crowning achievement in the beat 'em up genre. Utilizing some of the best design concepts of the past 20 years, Vanillaware succeeds in creating a captivating world that you just can't help but experience over and over.
While it may not win over the hardiest of brawler haters, if you've even had an inkling of joy hacking and slashing at any time in your gaming career, you should probably be playing Dragon's Crown.
In an industry full of games that seem to struggle with satisfying conclusions -- an area BioShock itself famously failed in -- Infinite is one of those rare games with a perfect beginning, an engaging middle, and a perfect end.
As a game, BioShock Infinite has its successes and its falterings consistent with any suitably complex piece of interactive entertainment. As a story, as an exercise in drawing the player into a believable and relevant world, as proof of exactly what a videogame can mean to a person ...
Well, I already said it. BioShock Infinite is damn near perfect.
Open-world game design works best when the player feels as though something fun is just around any corner. In this respect, Black Flag is the best Assassin's Creed yet. Strong environment design props up the well-worn, on-foot gameplay and the slightly more persistent enemy AI can present a decent threat to the incautious, but no real ground is broken on land.
Sea voyages are the brilliant contribution to the formula, with a range of variety and challenge strong enough to remain compelling through the game's lengthy campaign and beyond, while the remainder is a more polished, streamlined experience than ever before.
Tomb Raider could so easily have gone wrong, and its opening gambit looks like it's heading down a most erroneous path. It starts off with some ambushing QTEs and absolutely pummels Lara Croft into the dirt to such a degree, you'd almost suspect the developers were getting off on it. This first impression is an awkward obfuscation, however, one that soon erodes to reveal a savvy, thoughtful, and above all, immensely enjoyable game.
In fact, I'm happy to go on record as saying this is the best Tomb Raidergame I've played. Tightly produced, competent in both its puzzling and its combat, this is one reboot that manages to be unequivocally superior to its predecessors.
Lara Croft has at last scaled the mountain of relevance once again, and the view's pretty good from up there.
Rayman Legends is occasionally flustering, and sometimes seems to demand more than a conventional controller is capable of. The surprisingly slapdash jury-rigging of Wii U features on other systems is glaring in its inelegance, too. However, we're still left with an impressively designed platformer that proves itself a worthy followup to Rayman Origins, making a few notable omissions, but adding some excellent new ideas of its own.
Charming, funny, and only sometimes exasperating, Rayman Legends is the kind of game that makes this industry a better place for its existence.
There's no doubt this is Rockstar's biggest production yet. As well as taking place in an utterly massive open world, the storyline is at its most ambitious, and attempts to make the experience as fluid and sleek as ever are highly evident. Though aspects of the game remain old fashioned and more could have been done to switch things up, the end result of still a game of spectacular scope and density of content.
And while the narrative is as morally reprehensible as ever, the underlying intelligence backing up the wanton immaturity manages to keep GTA V treading the line of acceptable. There will be much pontificating on the morality of the game, and what its story says, but in GTA V, I see a game that knows its own reputation, owns it, and makes fun of itself in a nonetheless celebratory fashion.
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